Is it all over for the Audi R8? Every year, Ingolstadt releases an expensive new special edition of the car but changes little else. There's a lot of uncertainty around the future of Audi's only supercar, and it seems that the Volkswagen-owned brand is unwilling to commit to killing it or redesigning it just yet, presumably because developing a new version of the V10 coupe would be just as unreasonable as creating a hybrid or electric version while there's still money to be made off the R8's 5.2-liter Lamborghini Huracan-sourced engine. So the R8 follows the same recipe as before, it seems. Or does it? Power output on the base model has dropped, but so has the number of driven wheels. With the cheapest R8 now a rear-wheel-drive model with "only" 532 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque, the R8's most fun drivetrain variant is also the most affordable. The full-fat Performance model with 602 hp and 413 lb-ft is still offered with AWD security too, and there's another special edition of the R8 as well. Something for everyone? Maybe the R8 still has some life in it after all.
As mentioned above, the new Audi R8 range for 2021 sees the cheapest model become RWD with a drop in power from 2020's 562 hp to 532. The Performance model thus is the only one offered with AWD, and its specs go unchanged from those of last year. For 2021, a new Panther edition of the base RWD model is also offered, but only 30 of these were available, so good luck finding one. Don't worry though - you're not missing out. The only changes over the base model are aesthetic if you don't consider its loftier price of $183,300. Still, if you see its special metallic paint in person, you may deem it worth the extra cash.
The exterior design of the Audi R8 coupe has always been beautifully proportioned. That said, it's not a classically beautiful car, and many will say that the design has become too edgy and feels almost forced. This is mainly because of the oddly shaped front intake grilles below the LED headlights - LED and laser headlights are standard on the Performance version. Still, we do like the three little slots below the hood, and those sweeping front arches that house 20-inch wheels. At the rear, LED taillights feature along with a massive diffuser that is home to dual exhaust tips. These are chrome on the base version and black on the Performance model and Panther edition. A retractable spoiler is also included, but Performance models get a fixed wing and many carbon accents. On the limited Panther version, red accents and special paint on both the body and the wheels help it stand out with a red and black theme, but any version of these coupes grabs attention.
The dimensions of the R8 are typical for a supercar of this class, and as we've already mentioned, this is a nicely proportioned machine. It carries a length of 174.4 inches with a wheelbase measuring 104.3 inches. Height is just 48.7 inches from the ground while the width is rated at 76.4 inches excluding the side mirrors. The RWD models carry a base curb weight of 3,594 pounds, but the AWD Performance model has a higher rating of 3,913 lbs.
The special edition Panther model is only available in Audi exclusive Panther Black paint with a crystal effect, but the other models have a lot more scope for individualization. As standard, the base R8 can be had in Ibis White or Vegas Yellow, but if you're willing to shell out a little more, you get access to metallic hues like Florett Silver, Kemora Gray, Mythos Black, Suzuka Gray, and Tango Red. A pearl hue called Daytona Gray is also offered, but all of them carry the same surcharge of $595. If that's not extravagant enough for you, the crystal finish of Ara Blue will put a $1,075-sized dent in your checkbook, but again, even that can be outdone. Audi exclusive special colors can be mixed up at $3,900, or you can get matte exclusive special finishes for a whopping $6,800. Brake calipers are black as standard, but red is available for 700 bucks, or you can get blue calipers on the Performance model as part of a $5,000 package.
For the ultimate Audi R8 experience when it comes to flat-out performance, you'll obviously be interested in the R8, uh, Performance. This model's version of the Lamborghini-shared 5.2-liter V10 churns out an incredible 602 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque - with no assistance from electric motors, or turbos, or any other form of forced induction. The results are astonishing, not least of which when it comes to aural pleasure and instantaneous throttle response. 0-60 mph is dispatched in just 3.2 seconds, and if you keep the loud pedal buried in the firewall, you'll eventually run out of puff at 205 mph. The regular, RWD R8 isn't too bad either. It can get from 0 to 60 in just 3.6 seconds, and like its big brother tops out at over 200 mph - 201, to be exact. However, there are other differences too. The RWD R8 also gets a stiffer front anti-roll bar, a solid rear axle instead of a hollow one, and more negative camber in the rear, helping it remain planted around corners. The base R8 also gets adaptive dampers so that you can live a life of duality, while the Performance model is so focused on being sharp that fixed - although surprisingly comfy - dampers are fitted here. All versions of the R8 share one thing in common though - a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Whichever version or model of the Audi R8 you get, you'll find a 5.2-liter naturally aspirated V10 residing somewhere behind your head. On the base model, this power plant generates 532 hp (down 30 from last year's base model that had AWD) and 398 lb-ft of torque. This is mated to a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, and it's rather good at cruising along, minding its own business, shifting smoothly and nonchalantly through every gear with speed and precision. Stick it into Sport mode and the gearbox has a tendency to downshift a little too early for relaxed driving, but that's just a sign that the Sport mode really is doing what it's supposed to. Of course, if you're not happy with letting the car decide when to shift, you can easily switch to manual mode and blast your way through the gears using the paddles. And speaking of blasting, the throttle response of this engine is phenomenal, not to mention its sound. Plant your right foot and the sound will egg you on more and more, encouraging you to chase the horizon. But because of the immense power, you'll be in triple-digit speeds very quickly, even if you're in the so-called base model. On the Performance model, you get 602 horses and 413 lb-ft of twist, and the experience is even more visceral. With the same transmission fitted here, getting into trouble on the road is just as effortless as in the RWD R8.
So how does it drive? Well, depending on which model you're behind the wheel of, the answer can be quite different. On the base model, power goes to the rear wheels. What does this mean? The ability to perform smokey burnouts and lurid slides with relative ease. But don't think that this is as well balanced as competitors like the Ferrari F8 Tributo or your average Porsche. Sure, it's good, but there's a purity of purpose that is missing, and one gets the feeling that this was always meant to be something else (an AWD vehicle). That said, there is a clear sharpness that is missing when you get into the Performance model. But fear not. While it sounds like we're downplaying the abilities of the R8, it's still a phenomenal machine and has a remarkable level of feel and feedback from the steering wheel, feel that is fast becoming a rare and precious commodity in the world of electric steering systems. And while the Performance model does feel a little less lively, the feeling of security provided by AWD when you have over 600 hp under your right foot cannot be overstated. In daily driving, the Performance model is a little harsher than the regular version because it doesn't have the cheaper variant's adaptive dampers, but it's not jarring or uncomfortable. Overall, this is still one of the most user-friendly and outright usable supercars on the market.
The only downside to the shrieking wail of the Audi R8's V10 is that it's not cheap to maintain. Gas mileage figures for the lighter, RWD model are naturally a little lower, but the other benefit that this model has is a slightly larger gas tank. The RWD version will return 14/23/17 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles. With a 21.9-gallon gas tank, you can expect an average mixed driving range of around 372 miles. The AWD Performance version isn't much worse though, returning 13/20/16 mpg on the same cycles, but with a 19.2-gallon gas tank, range drops all the way to around 307 miles with mixed driving.
The interior of the 2021 Audi R8 is typically classy and elegant. It's simple but with enough drama to make you feel like you're sitting somewhere special, and particularly in the Performance variant, 'special' gets turned up to 11 thanks to lashings of carbon fiber and special racing shell seats. But don't fret if you prefer the RWD model - both types of R8 get a 12.3-inch configurable driver info display that doubles as the interface for your infotainment system, and for those who desire more than the wail of a V10, an available 13-speaker B&O sound system can he bad in conjunction with extended leather for further luxury.
The Audi R8 loses practicality points to its chief competition the Porsche 911 due to the fact that it is a two-seater, but that makes it even more attractive to those who want that true supercar experience. In the base model, you get 14-way power seats as standard that offer plenty of comfort and support, and the view out as well as the general ergonomics of the seating experience are excellent. If you want more scope for adjustment, 18-way seats are also offered, but in the Performance model, you get racy bucket seats as standard that offer immense support. The only downside is that getting in and out without grazing the aggressive bolsters can be tricky.
Color options are not in short supply when it comes to the interior. Of course, you get leather as standard, but full leather costs $3,000 and contrast stitching adds a further 500 bucks. In addition, the vast majority of these options require extra packages like the Full Leather package, Premium package, and the Contrast Stitching package to be unlocked. At least the choices are vast: options include Black with stitching in Ara Blue, Express Red, Rock Gray, Vegas Yellow, or plain black. Also offered are Express Red leather with Steel Gray stitching, Palomino Brown with Steel Gray stitching, or Pastel Silver with Rock Gray stitching. For those who want a really fancy finish, quilted leather in the same combinations will set you back an extra $5,000. The Performance variant gets fewer color combos, but you do also get mixes of Fine Nappa leather and Alcantara.
Bringing things along with you for the drive is tricky, unless you're willing to use the passenger seat for a small bag. In the 'frunk', you'll find a little space for an overnight bag, but with just eight cubic feet of volume, it had better be a small bag.
In the cabin, small-item storage isn't great either. There's a small spot ahead of the gear-lever where you can put your phone and another small spot between the seats where a drink can be stored, but the door pockets are only big enough for keys. The glove compartment is also tiny, with no real space. Then again, if you can afford an R8, you probably don't care too much.
As we touched on earlier, there isn't a great number of advanced features offered with the R8. There's no forward collision alert or adaptive cruise control, but you do get regular cruise control, power-folding and heated wing mirrors, adaptive dampers, a retractable rear spoiler, park assist with front and rear parking sensors, heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, wireless charging, push-button start, and an active exhaust system. On the Performance variant, adaptive dampers and a retractable spoiler aren't offered, but it comes standard with LED laser headlights (optional on the RWD trim) and both get a configurable driver info display measuring 12.3 inches.
Unlike most modern cars, you won't find a central screen in the R8 because everything is controlled via the steering wheel and displayed on the driver's configurable 12.3-inch display. But that doesn't mean that it's overly simple or short on the things you need. You still get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth connectivity, SiriusXM satellite radio, voice control, and navigation. Both trims have access to a punchier 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, but only in conjunction with the $7,400 Premium package. For those who see this as a daily supercar, it's a worthwhile addition for days when, for some reason, a V10's song simply won't cut it.
Reliability is not something that you want to be worrying about when you're piloting a car capable of over 200 mph, but fortunately, there seems to be nothing to worry about on the R8. Neither this year's model nor its 2020 predecessor has been subject to a single recall thus far.
Should anything go awry, Audi covers you with a limited and a powertrain warranty, each of which is valid for the first four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. The first year or 10,000 miles covers scheduled maintenance, too.
As with most cars in this price bracket and market, neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has performed a crash test review on this supercar so there are no Audi R8 safety reviews for the USA. But with most of the basics covered, this shouldn't be a concern. However, if you can't see yourself buying a car without advanced driver aids, look elsewhere.
As standard, there isn't much in the way of safety equipment here beyond what is commonplace on cars that cost less than 10 percent of what the R8 does. You get your dual frontal and side-impact airbags, overhead airbags, knee airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control systems, and the obligatory rearview camera. You also get a park assist system with front and rear parking sensors and the option of LED laser headlights with auto high beams on the base trim, but that's where the list ends.
The Audi R8 is still one of the easiest supercars to live with on a daily basis, and if you don't know anything about the car, that statement may lead you to believe that the R8 is not quite up to the standard set by the likes of Lamborghini and Porsche. To be fair, this isn't as sharp as a 911 Turbo and doesn't have quite the same level of visual drama as a Huracan, but it remains a monstrous machine that can get to 60 mph in as little as 3.2 seconds. It can also rip up an abandoned highway at over 200 mph (not that we would condone such a thing without the proper protocols). Besides its figures on paper, it sounds brilliant, and as one of the very few V10 supercars still breathing - and on its own without turbos, no less - one cannot understate its importance to aficionados of wailing crescendos. But most attractive of all is the fact that this is a supercar that, for better or worse, carries an Audi badge and drives like one in many ways. It's comfortable, warms your butt on cold days, and is easy to get familiar with. Being able to see out of it with relative ease is another plus point. Basically, this is more than a cut-rate Lambo. This is a car all its own, one that just so happens to be exotic yet remains down to earth. Want one? We do.
The cheapest model of the R8 is the base version, which starts at a cost of $142,700 before you pay the $1,495 destination charge. The Panther edition, of which only 30 were made, sold for an MSRP of $183,300, but the most expensive model you can actually have right now is the Performance model with its base asking price of $196,700. Fully loaded with options, the Audi R8 price can reach $220,595.
The 2021 Audi R8 is now available in two configurations in the US: V10 RWD and V10 Performance. The base version is powered by a 5.2-liter V10 that sends 532 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic automatic gearbox. Specs on this model include 20-inch wheels, power-folding heated wing mirrors, heated and 14-way power-adjustable seats, adaptive dampers, an active exhaust system, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED headlights with auto high beams, park assist with parking sensors, a 12.3-inch configurable driver info and infotainment display, and keyless entry.
By comparison, the Performance model gains ceramic brakes, laser light headlights, bucket seats, carbon fiber interior and exterior accents, and the option of a carbon fiber front anti-roll bar. If you really want that Bang & Olufsen audio system, it is offered as an option on either car, but not cheaply.
The R8 Performance model is particularly well specced, but you can still add the R8 Performance Design package for $5,000. This gives you a mix of leather and Alcantara on the racing shell seats, an Alcantara-clad steering wheel with Mercato Blue stitching to match its new floor mats and shift lever. You also get blue brake calipers for the complete theme. This model has further access to a carbon fiber front sway bar at $1,100, while the 13-speaker B&O audio upgrade costs $1,900. If you don't want AWD but do like carbon fiber, the base model can be equipped with the Carbon Interior package for $3,400, adding additional carbon inlays to the cabin. The Premium package is more expensive at $7,400 thanks to its B&O sound system, extended leather sub-package, illuminated door sill inlays, and Alcantara headliner. How much more you want to add is up to you and your bank balance.
This choice will depend on the kind of driver you and what kind of features you want from your car. If you seek ultimate performance, then the Performance model is certainly the one to have. With AWD and over 600 horses on tap, this is the fastest and quickest R8, but for those who are happy with a top speed of 201 mph, the regular R8 RWD is the one we recommend. Not only can this one be even more fun when you get it sideways, but it also comes with adaptive dampers as standard - something that you can't have on the Performance model. With a lower price to boot, it's definitely our pick, but take both for a test drive to see where you're most comfortable.
The BMW i8, Bavaria's electrified sports car, may not be returning for 2021, but some 2020 models are still available that you may be able to purchase if you act quickly. It's a completely different kind of car to the R8 but is still brimming with character and that wow factor that any supercar must have to be successful. It is powered by a mix of combustion and electricity, producing a total of 369 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque - more twist than the R8 offers. Obviously, its hybrid characteristics make it much more frugal when it comes to gas consumption, but the trade-off is that the R8 will decimate it in any kind of performance test. At the end of the day, the R8 is for enthusiasts who love driving, while the i8 is more suited to those who want to look like they care about cars and the environment at the same time, and have half-usable rear seats.
Following on from the Black Series version of the AMG GT taking the Nurburgring record, the regular GT is getting a lot more attention from those who would never have otherwise considered it. Okay, it's not as powerful as the Black Series, but the regular GT is still plenty strong enough. Its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 develops 523 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque, but with a more traditional front-engine layout, it's got a reasonable trunk too. The interior also follows a more common theme with its central infotainment screen. However, much like the R8, advanced features - whether for safety or convenience - are in short supply. With power only ever going to the rear wheels, this is also a supercar not recommended for those with little confidence behind the wheel. But if you're into a more old-school vibe, the Merc is where it's at.